The Gospel of John: The Martyrdom of Peter.

Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” (John 21:18-19)

Of all the similes and metaphors contained in the Scriptures, arguably the most familiar is the comparison of God as our Shepherd and we,  His children and disciples, as His sheep (Psalm 23; Psalm 95:1-7; John 10:10-18; John 21:15-17). The reason being is that much like sheep, we need a Shepherd to guide and lead us. Why? The reason is because sheep are naturally dumb, lacking discernment and wisdom. Sheep need a wise Shepherd.

One commentator writes, “We must admit that we are lost apart from the Lord’s shepherding, just as sheep are lost without a shepherd. This is true not only of laypeople in the church but also of the church’s leaders. And it was true even of the Apostles. As we see in today’s passage, Peter was likewise entreated by our Savior to follow Him (John 21:19). Peter and the other Apostles had to humble themselves like sheep and follow Jesus no less than the rest of us do.”

As Psalm 23 reminds us, the Lord, our Shepherd, leads us not only into green pastures and beside still waters, but also through the valley of the shadow of death. Regardless of where we are, or where the Lord leads us, we are not to fear. This is because the Lord our Shepherd is with us as our refuge and strength (Psalm 46:1-7).

Jesus told Peter this truth. He prophesied to Peter that he would meet a martyrs death; most likely by crucifixion. The phrase “but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go” found in today’s text conveys the image of crucifixion. The phrase “stretch out your hands” was a common way of speaking about crucifixion in the ancient world.  Therefore, we can conclude that Jesus was predicting that Peter would eventually die by crucifixion. Tradition holds that Peter was crucified upside down during the reign of Nero sometime in the early to mid-60s AD. While we may not be 100% certain Peter was crucified upside down, it is certain that he was crucified given the evidence that we have both from texts such as John 21:18 and from ancient historical documents.

Dr. John MacArthur explains that, “Jesus’ call of devotion to him would also mean that Peter’s devotion would entail his own death (Matt. 10:37–39). Whenever any Christian follows Christ, he must be prepared to suffer and die (Matt. 16:24–26). Peter lived three decades serving the Lord and anticipating the death that was before him (2 Pet. 1:12–15), but he wrote that such suffering and death for the Lord brings praise to God (1 Pet. 4:14–16). Church tradition records that Peter suffered martyrdom under Nero (c. A.D. 67–68), being crucified upside down, because he refused to be crucified like his Lord.”

How has the Lord led you like a shepherd in your life? Do you recall the so-called green pastures of prosperity and comfort? What about the dark times as He led you through the valley of the shadow of death?

Savior, like a shepherd lead us
Much we need Thy tender care
In Thy pleasant pastures feed us
For our use Thy folds prepare.

Chorus

Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus
Thou hast bought us, Thine we are
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus
Thou hast bought us, Thine we are.

We are Thine, who Thou befriend us
Be the guardian of our way
Keep Thy flock from sin defend us
Seek us when we go astray.

Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus
Hear Thy children when we pray
Blessed Jesus, oh blessed Jesus
Hear Thy children when we pray.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

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